Review: Bloodline – Season 1 (2015)

Netflix is on to another winner with this new thriller from the creators of Damages...

Since dipping its toes in the pool of original content in 2012, Netflix has commissioned sixteen in-house shows.

One of the latest is Bloodline, from the creators of Damages, and it’s one of the network’s best efforts so far.

The drama revolves around the Rayburns, a well-respected family residing in the Florida Keys. Sally (Sissy Spacek) and Robert (Sam Shepard) are a husband and wife who own and run a successful inn on the coast. They’re supported by their three children, local sheriff John (Kyle Chandler), the hot-headed Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) and lawyer Meg (Linda Cardellini).

As the family gather to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the inn’s opening, eldest son and black sheep of the family, Danny (Ben Mendelsohn) comes home to join them. At first they are all happy to see him, but when he decides he’d like to stay, the family aren’t so keen. Robert, who never saw eye to eye with his son after a terrible event in the past, is adamant Danny should leave. But when Robert dies of a heart attack, Danny sees no opposition and chooses to stay and help his mother run the inn.

As Danny takes on more responsibilities, attempting to become part of the family, dark secrets from the past soon emerge and he becomes loathsome of his siblings and mother. Determined to tear the family apart, Danny works his way between everyone, souring relationships. And from then on, things only get worse.

Bloodline is a gripping drama about a family that, from the outside, seems to have it all, but each member is harbouring demons that pull them far from the paradise of Florida Keys. Firmly rooted in the thriller genre, this is a story about loyalty, betrayal and unconditional love.

The antagonist is an outsider forced to live that way by the very people who should embrace him. As John says himself: “We never treated Danny like he was one of our own. So if he went astray, we all bear some of the blame.” They created the monster and now it’s time for them to feel the full extent of what they did.

One of the strongest elements of the series is the unique location – the sun-washed, palm tree islands south of Florida. The juxtaposition of the golden sands and clear water with the dark and gloomy tone makes for an interesting proposition. It’s reminiscent of crime films set in L.A. With added Michael Mann-influenced colour filters, and tense dramatic moments complimented by tropical rain, the show looks like a film noir at times.

The cast is incredible, particularly the siblings, but special mention must go to Mendelsohn, who’s showing he has the range to compete with the best actors. The way he balances the volatile performance is something to behold. He steals every scene he’s in by creating a sense of unease and discomfort. Chandler also excels as the good-natured John, constantly butting heads with his older brother as they push each other to breaking point.

Despite a slow start, each episode meticulously strips back the family’s layers, revealing hidden cracks and exposing small pieces of the past. By the halfway point you’re so invested in these characters and the mystery that you’ll find it hard not to let Netflix auto-play the next episode.

Bloodline is one of the best shows the network has to offer and I highly recommend it. Netflix, you’ve done it again.

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